Set pieces prove to be Japan’s undoing in Women’s World Cup final loss

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Japan was clearly second best from the first whistle to the last on Sunday. The United States came out with a purpose and looked like a team of destiny while rolling to a 5-2 victory at BC Place Stadium. All night, most of the 53,341 fans chanted USA, USA, USA. Japan had never played in such a hostile and roaring venue with so many spectators cheering against the Nadeshiko.

Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday and the entire U.S. starting lineup played on another level, scoring four goals in the opening 16 minutes.

Set pieces ultimately proved Japan’s undoing.

“In the set pieces, they were very meticulous,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said.

Japan, which won the 2011 World Cup final over the U.S., usually controls the play, dictates what the opposition is going to do and counterattacks. But U.S. coach Jill Ellis had her players taking the game to Japan. The first of Lloyd’s hat-trick goals — less than three minutes into the game — had the crowd erupt in huge ovation and boisterous cheers.

Japan was easily overwhelmed and whatever tactical plan Sasaki had, it didn’t work. The U.S. swarmed Japan and never let up. Golden Ball winner Lloyd scored her second just five minutes in, and it was evident that this was going to be a special match for the United States, and there wasn’t anything Japan could do about.

Normally a team that excels on set piece play, Japan had no chance on them on Sunday. The U.S. did their homework and had tactics that Japan had never seen before. It was difficult for Japan to mark the U.S. players and Japan crumbled under pressure.

“They tried new things on the set plays that we never saw in the tournament and we didn’t handle well with that,” Japan goal-scorer Yuki Ogimi said. “They repeated that effort three times and I think that was the ability that we couldn’t handle well from set plays.”

Japan captain Aya Miyama and her teammates were shocked and not expecting a surge of Red, White, and Blue to overwhelm them.

“We didn’t expect that first 15 minutes,” she said. “It was hard and tough, but we came back and I think we played well.”

Defender Azusa Iwashimizu was disastrous on the night, playing large roles in each of the first three U.S. goals. She missed the ball on the corner-kick pass that found Lloyd on the first goal, failed to cover Lloyd on the second tally, and booted the ball dangerously up in the air on Holiday’s goal. The last was quite possibly the most suspect. Japan head coach Norio Sasaki pulled Iwashimizu from the game for Homare Sawa in the 33 minute.

By that time it was already too late for Japan.

Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was a candidate for the Golden Glove award for the bestgGoalkeeper at the World Cup. Hope Solo won thanks to her play and votes from the FIFA Technical Study Group. Kaihori was caught from the midfield line and easily chipped by Lloyd on the U.S. midfielder’s third goal, one of the most brilliant of the World Cup. Kaihori was in tears after the match.

Ogimi had a great individual effort to get Japan on the score-sheet before halftime. However, by the time Japan settled into the match and looked comfortable playing football, it was well in hand for the U.S. and out of reach for Japan.

On Sunday, Sasaki elected to go with the same starting eleven that defeated England 2-1 in the semifinals. He made a pair of substitutions before the half in an effort to boost some life into his squad, who trailed 4-0 at the time.

Ogimi and Miyama talked briefly about Sasaki’s effort to lift his teams spirits during the interval.

“We needed goals and he told us to press forward and also to play in their side, and have more players involved in the attack,” Ogimi said.

Miyama added: “He said the first half is gone so we need to make sure it’s a new game, so we tried.”

Japan was given a momentary lifeline early in the second half when U.S. defender Julie Johnston headed the ball past Hope Solo. Japan cut the deficit to 4-2 and it seemed like they might make a game of it for the second half.

But as with many things Japan did, the U.S. had a quick response that took the life out of Japan. Tobin Heath scored two minutes later and restored a three-goal advantage for the Stars and Stripes. Japan did play competitively for the duration of the second half. However, the poor start that Sasaki and his team had put them in a massive hole that they could never climb out of.

Lloyd was captain clutch and she performed a match for the ages, becoming the first player to score a hat trick in a Women’s World Cup final. Japan came up against a determined freight train and it rolled through Vancouver and a shocked Japan team. The World Cup now belongs to the United States.

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?


Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

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Premier League table, 2022-23 season


If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.

Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news


Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.


France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.

How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.

England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news


World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.


Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.

How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.

Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola